By Ted Waddell
MONTICELLO Down nine runs going into the bottom of the first inning, the home team Monticello Panthers needed a long shovel to dig themselves out of a proverbial hole in last Thursday’s non-league baseball game against the Valley Central Vikings.
The key blow for the Vikings during their nine-run outburst in the top of the first was Thomas Hand’s grand slam.
However, the Panthers kept their heads in the game. They outscored the visitors in the final innings, but lost 16-7.
Monticello (0-2) loaded the bases with two outs in the second and fourth innings, but failed to send any runners across the plate on both occasions.
At their turn at bat in the seventh inning, the Panthers once again had a runner at every base. But this time they scored four runs on five hits. One of those hits was a two-run double by James Buckley.
Valley Central (3-2) scored three runs in the second inning, one run in the sixth and added three more runs in the final frame in the wake of loading the bases.
Monticello got into the scorebook by posting three runs in the sixth.
Casey Cragan pitched the first four innings for the Vikings and Matt Torres stepped onto the mound for the last three innings.
Sean Reuss started the game on the mound for the Panthers. He was relieved by James Durland, who pitched four scoreless innings. Buckley pitched the seventh inning for Monticello.
“I thought Casey [Cragan] did well in his first time on the mound this year,” said Valley Central Coach Eric Bartle, who is in his 11th year of guiding the team.
“I hope to keep improving every day, stay strong on offensive and defensive fundamentals, and prepare ourselves to get into the playoffs,” Bartle added.
Coach Mike Marra, who is in his first season of leading the Panthers, said that while Reuss got “picked apart” by the opposition’s bats in the opening inning, “he threw strikes, but missed his spots.
“Then we settled down,” Marra added. “They got three [runs] in the second, but we held them scoreless for four innings… we didn’t let it rattle us.”
Marra said that “if you count the runs,” the Panthers won the second half of the game, as they outgunned the Vikings, 7-3, after the second inning.
“We struggled early, but I was impressed because we didn’t hang our heads,” Marra commented. “I can’t complain about our effort out there, we just didn’t execute.”